With one brewery under our belts, the grad school gaggle strode confidently from our minivan into the Mad Fox Brewing Company in Falls Church, VA. The Mad Fox styles itself as a Euro gastro brewpub, and like the Lost Rhino, sources its food from local farms and butchers, as well as the Falls Church Farmer’s Market. Its beers, which span German, English, Belgian and American traditions, are all brewed on-site. When you enter the establishment, you immediately encounter 15-barrel stainless steel serving tanks, standing more than ten feet tall behind the host stand.
Our group took over a hightop table near the bar and decided that the best strategy to take advantage of the extensive array of beer offerings was to order three 4-beer samplers. Since our samplers arrived so thoughtfully arranged from light to dark, and since we were no longer taking the path less traveled at Lost Rhino, I made the executive decision to taste in traditional fashion, beginning with beers we could see through and ending with the darker, more mysterious, brooding concoctions. I read out descriptions from the very detailed Mad Fox beverage menu and passed around the glasses.
One of the first tastes at the light end was a Mad Fox signature beer, the German style Kölsch. The Kölsch incorporates German noble Hersbrucker hops, which add piney notes to the flavor, with German malts to balance out the subtle hop bitterness. The Kölsch yeast keeps the beer crisp and light. Further down the row of glasses stood Lindy’s Weiss, a Bavarian Style Hefeweizen, heavy on the German malts and light on the hops. A very traditional Hefeweizen, the taster is treated to heavy flavors of bananas produced by the yeast that ferments the beer. Closing in on the mid-point of the sampler beckoned the Broad Street IPA (weighing in at 7.3% ABV), a single hop IPA, brewed with Centennial Hops and then also dry-hopped with almost 50 pounds of Centennial Hops, producing an herbal and citrus aroma that is transformed into hoppy bitterness upon taste.
After 7 tastes, I was amazed that the group still paid attention, or pretended to pay attention, to the very helpful descriptions I was reading from the menu. The scientific method in our hearts, we plodded on. My favorite turned out to be the Leonidas – Batch 300 Ale. English and German malts provided a sufficiently solid malt backbone to balance out the kettle additions of 100% Citra hops and the dry hopping with more Citra and other Simcoe-type hops. The citrus of the hops and sweet smoothness of the malt, with a slight alcohol finish, resulted in my ordering an entire glass of it once the sampling was finished. (DC-ers: I just read that the rest of the batch was barrel aged and released in June, so get to Mad Fox and drink some for me!)
Last in the tasting was a porter and an imperial stout, both very good. Big Chimney’s Porter, an English-style robust Porter, is brewed with English malts that create a dark color with reddish highlights, in addition to the roast and chocolate flavors. English hops add just a touch of bitterness. The Crazy Ivan Russian Imperial Stout is also brewed with English malts, along with roasted barley and flaked oats, but incorporates heavier hopping than its porter cousin. The result was a very big, complex, flavorful stout.
Our sampling complete, urbanites, suburbanites, PhDs, neuroscientists and social scientists alike chose their favorite beers to finish off. At some point, a visionary had the presence of mind to order a pretzel and delicious frickles from the food menu to line our stomachs for the last brewery of the day, Port City Brewery. Before I knew it, I was sandwiched in that back middle seat again headed toward my high school stomping grounds of Alexandria, VA. Somewhat subdued by the latest round of beers and food, the natives in the back of the minivan felt sufficiently satisfied to sway with traffic, catch air on the worst bumps in the road, and jeer quietly about “mom’s” driving. (to be continued…)